Senate kills effort to block EPA regulations on coal-powered plants
Legislation to defeat an EPA emissions rule that critics say would kill thousands of jobs and raise electricity rates for consumers was killed in the Senate Wednesday.
A handful of Republicans sided with Democrats to block the measure on a procedural vote of 46 yeas to 53 nays, including Sens. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Scott Brown of Massachusetts, and Susan Collins and Olympia Snow of Maine.
Democrats who crossed over to vote with Republicans included Sens. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Mark Warner and Jim Webb of Virginia.
Republicans say the mercury emission rules for coal-fired plants are the centerpiece of President Barack Obama’s war on coal.
“This effectively kills coal in America,” said Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), author of the measure.
Republicans said the regulations are the most expensive rules ever created by the EPA, and will cost consumers $10 billion a year in addition to killing 50,000 jobs.
“This is just one battle in the administration’s war on jobs, but it has devastating consequences for real people and real families in my state and in many others,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
“The administration’s nonchalant attitude about these people is appalling, but this is precisely the danger of having unelected bureaucrats in Washington playing with the livelihoods of Americans as if they’re nothing more than pieces on a chessboard,” McConnell said.
Democrats say job creation doesn’t have to come at the expense of clean air and higher environmental standards.
Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.V.) criticized the coal industry for fighting the new regulations and said the business needs to face the real threats of aging plants, finite reserves, and the rise of natural gas as an alternative.
“The EPA alone is not going to make or break coal. There are many forces exerting pressure and that agency is just one of them,” Rockefeller said.
Republicans said regulations are an economic disaster shrouded in false claims about public health, but Rockefeller said the health benefits are “enormous.”
“I oppose this resolution because I care so much about West Virginians,” said Rockefeller, whose coal rich state will be affected by the EPA regulations. “Without good health it’s difficult to hold down a job or live the American dream. Chronic illness is debilitating and impacts a family’s income, prosperity and ultimately its happiness. EPA has relied on thousands of studies that established the serious and long term impact of these pollutants on premature deaths, heart attacks, hospitalizations, pregnant women, babies and children.”
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said critics of the coal industry have “cast it in apocalyptic terms that have no bearing on reality.”
“It is a job killing, ideologically driven attempt to cripple the coal industry in the U.S. — an industry that employees a lot of people and feeds a lot of families, and this administration is unfortunately using the EPA to destroy a reliable … source of electricity,” Cornyn said.
“This is another example of executive overreach. So stringent that no new coal-fired plant will be built in the U.S. no matter how modern or how clean the technology will allow it to operate,” Cornyn said. “This is the cheapest and most abundant source of energy in this country and we are simply killing it.”
Added Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho.): “Why would anyone vote for this? This is absolute foolishness.